“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
Godliness cannot be gained where one is unwilling to do without. Denying ourselves does not come naturally. Our first instinct is to cater to ourselves – to gain pleasure and avoid pain. Who would choose to get on the longest line at the store? Why take the longest route somewhere when there is an obvious shortcut? If the light is more excellent than the darkness, why deprive one’s self of knowledge when it is offered? When something could be resolved, who would want things to remain “up in the air”? Is being unknown, unliked, unappreciated better than being recognized and beloved? Who, in their right mind, would willingly wear a crown of thorns?
The cross is a place of loss – a dead end – where dreams seem to end; where curtains are pulled on the big, wonderful, glorious world; where our trophies at last are laid down. But the cross of Christ is a different kind of death. It is a sacrifice – a willing loss, a laying down of our life, as opposed to a murder where one’s life is unwillingly taken away. Jesus said: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17,18) For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. (Heb. 12:2) He told His disciples if they loved and wanted to save their lives in this world they would lose them, but if they hated and lost their lives in this world they would gain them. The order for Christ is the order for those who would follow Him: the cross must precede the resurrection.
Paul learned to glory in the cross. He said: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14) The direction of Paul’s life was radically changed on the road to Damascus. The things that were once gain to him, he counted loss. He was content to go without all the things which once drove him. Success, pleasure, life, glory were all redefined. Forgetting those things that were behind, he began a new pursuit. Knowing and apprehending Jesus was now the pearl of great price. Becoming a true worshipper of God, even one like his Master, was his supreme ambition. But such came at a price, which Paul was gladly willing to pay.
Don’t fear a “dead end” that God ordains. There is joy unspeakable and full of glory on the other side. Cherish and chase what matters to God – even when it means the loss of all this world calls good.